MLB Spring Training 2012: Charlie Manuel And The Philadelphia Phillies Don’t Speak In Metaphors

Charlie Manuel is a manager that knows the definition of riding a wave.  He’s the kind of guy who tells it like it is, but in a way so veiled with his southern drawl you would probably walk away ten steps before you realized you were just told off. He’s usually pretty even keeled, not letting much shake him or rattle him. Might come from his upbringing in the south, that calm temperament.  Having been born and raised in the south, as well as living in the town he grew up while attending college I know what its like.

Like their manager  the Philadelphia Phillies are currently riding their own wave. Since 2007, they’ve been the best team in the National League (by a lot) and big-time additions have directly coincided with their yearly increase in wins. They’ve won five consecutive division titles (473 wins, .583 win %), two National League Pennants, and were champions in 2008. When they made their late coup for pitcher Cliff Lee before the 2011 season it seemed a culmination of just how far this team had come from the one that hadn’t sniffed the postseason since 1993.

But, to some, this seems to be slowly coming to an end. You hear terms in sports like “their window of opportunity” or “this is a great era in team “x’s”  history. The 2012 Philadelphia Phillies? They’re hearing none of that.

Despite a first basemen (Ryan Howard) who tore his Achilles on the final play of their season, a second basemen (Chase Utley) who, quite literally, played himself to the point of injury with no real timetable for return, and a third basemen (Placido Polanco) whose elbow issues last season may force the manager to switch him to second base to fill the spot vacated by the starter the Phillies seem confident.

Doubly confident. If not, “triply confident.”

You see, as stated earlier, Charlie Manuel knows a thing or two about career waves. He won a World Series with Philadelphia before Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay showed up. Not bad adding the best lefty and righty in the league to an already stacked squad. So as the wave is trying to build up yet again from an apparent trough of injuries for their hitters, it is cresting for their pitching staff at just the right time. Last year those three (Hamels, Halladay, and Lee) combined to go (50-23), with 652 strikeouts in 682.1 innings pitched. The guy who won the NLCS and World Series MVP that year, Cole Hamels, is slotted third behind Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay while entering the prime of his career. They will be followed by breakout pitcher Vance Worley, who should provide quality innings as their fourth before handing it over to a bullpen that now features Jonathan Papelbon closing out the games.

During his time with the Cleveland Indians, Charlie Manuel won 220 games before being let go halfway through the 2002 season while the Indians sat (39-47). It would be three years before Manuel was given a chance to show what he had as a manager. Talk to him about “windows” and “doors” and he’ll probably tell you that kind of talk is for the birds and philosophers. He’s more interested in October success, and bringing his Phillies back to the October glory they felt in 2008.

I’m sure he would have it no other way.

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